Hospice workers frustrated over exclusion from Phase 1 of NY vaccine plan

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GLOVERSVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York is in Phase 1 of Coronavirus vaccine distribution. That includes frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents, but does not explicitly encompass hospice workers.

Kara Travis, President and CEO of Mountain Valley Hospice and the Nancy Dowd Hospice Home in Gloversville, was disappointed and alarmed that hospice workers were not among the first in New York on the inoculation list. Some of these workers provide 24 hour care to patients in hospice facilities, or visit the patients in their homes.

“We build long term relationships with these patients,” Travis said, “they’re often highly immunocompromised because they’ve got some kind of illness or chronic combination of ailments that is putting them on a trajectory to be alive for six months or less.”

Travis said this makes families of hospice patients understandably nervous about letting a healthcare worker into their home.

When asked why the state would exclude hospice workers from phase one, Travis said she believes it was an oversight. However, she noted that something should be done to explicitly include them sooner rather than later, because the COVID emergency declaration previously listed hospice workers as essential, right alongside hospital healthcare workers.

“The fact that that was suddenly seeming to change in this interpretation of the guidelines is what’s been very, very upsetting,” said Travis, “because our staff have been on the front line of the pandemic since the beginning.”

The Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State has called on the governor to take action, writing, “This workforce is at higher risk of contracting and/or transmitting the virus. They are in close contact with patients and their families for extended periods of time. As the Governor has stipulated it is these small micro-gatherings that are providing the highest rate of infection.”

The New York State Department of Health did not immediately return NEWS10’s request for comment.

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